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Erin Blakemore

Erin Blakemore is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist Her debut book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf (Harper), won a Colorado Book Award for Nonfiction and has been translated into Italian, Korean and Portuguese. Erin has written about history and culture and other topics for Smithsonian.com, The Washington Post, TIME, mental_floss, NPR’s This I Believe, The Onion, Popular Science, Modern Farmer and other journals. You can find more of her work at erinblakemore.com.

Nuns and cows

How Frontier Nuns Challenged Gender Norms

Scholars Carol K. Coburn and Martha Smith write that nuns were an important part of westward expansion—and in Colorado, nuns quickly learned how to use their gender to their advantage.
portrait of abolitionist James Hinds, 1860s

The White Carpetbagger Who Died Trying to Protect African-Americans’ Civil Rights

James Hinds was assassinated for his beliefs, and today is largely forgotten. He stood up for African-American civil rights during the Reconstruction, provoking the KKK's ire.
Colonial headstone

Funerals Once Included Swag

In eighteenth-century New England, funeral attendees went home with funeral tokens–usually a pair of gloves or a ring that declared their sorrow.
Victorian gloves

What Gloves Meant to the Victorians

According to one historian, the year 1900 was “the zenith of glove-wearing,” when any self-respecting Victorian (British or American) wouldn’t be caught dead without covered hands.
Victorian-era lacemakers

How the Victorians Politicized Lace

The Victorian era involved a lot of lace. In the face of encroaching industrialism, handmade lace enjoyed a frilly revival—and masked fears about the commodification of female labor.
Women moonshiners bootleggers

How Prohibition Encouraged Women to Drink

During Prohibition, American women “made, sold, and drank liquor in unprecedented fashion,” writes historian Mary Murphy.
Candice Bergen Murphy Brown

Murphy Brown, Motherhood, and “Family Values”

Murphy Brown represented a threat to “family values”—a position that inherently placed her on the side of the families of color whose single family structures supposedly threatened the white, middle-class status quo of the 1990s.
18th century hoop skirt

Why Hoop Petticoats Were Scandalous

In the 18th century a new trend in women's underwear sparked public scandal: the hoop petticoat. How the world became obsessed with what was under women’s skirts.
Lady Loinette

The Feminist Evolution of the Iowa Porkettes

In Iowa, between 1964 and 1991, groups of women—the wives of pork farmers—boosted the supposed benefits of pork-heavy diets. They were the Iowa Porkettes.
women in a reading room at Smith College in 1898

The Reading Rooms Designed to Protect Women from “Library Loafers”

In the late 1800s, American women began to move more freely in public. In response, public libraries created sex-segregated reading rooms, intended to keep women in their proper place.
supermarket illustration

Sex and the Supermarket

Supermarkets represented a major innovation in food distribution—a gendered innovation that encouraged women to find sexual pleasure in subordination.
Winter Shack Landscape

A Feminist Reading of The Long Winter

In The Long Winter, often praised as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s greatest novel, the villain may be not the snow, but oppressive gender roles.
Christmas banquet

How Victorians’ Fear of Starvation Created Our Christmas Lore

One scholar sees more in the Christmas food of authors like Charles Dickens—English national identity and class.
Compleat Housewife frontispiece

What Amateur Cookbooks Reveal About History

Remember those spiral-bound cookbooks from your church group or your mom’s favorite charity? Those amateur recipe collections are history books, too.
Monkeys illustration

Early America’s Troubled Relationship With Monkeys

The real and supposed resemblances between humans and non-human primates shaped American conversations about race and society.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School

How Native Americans Taught Both Assimilation and Resistance at Indian Schools

In the nineteenth century, many Native American children attended “Indian schools” designed to blot out Native cultures in favor of Anglo assimilation.
Young Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill’s Love-Hungry Childhood

Winston Churchill started life as a love-starved child whose lonely childhood set the stage for his almost fanatical need for influence and power.
1949 Little Women

The Grumpiness of Little Women

By focusing in on the characters’ emotions, a scholar discovers something more than good little women. She finds surprisingly angry ones.
Punch bowl

Punch vs. Tea in the 18th Century

In the 18th century, whether a person drank punch or tea revealed a lot about gender, stereotypes, sociability, and domesticity.
Thoreau Sherlock Holmes

The Truth About Sherlock Holmes: He’s Actually Henry David Thoreau

A tongue in cheek comparison between the British fictional sleuth and the American Transcendentalist author, just because.
Colorful donuts with different decorations

The Delicious Democratic Symbolism of…Doughnuts?

Doughnuts became popular during World War I, when Salvation Army volunteers—most of them women—made and served the soldiers million of doughnuts.
Mommie Dearest

Are Mothers Monsters? Revisiting Mommie Dearest

On the surface, "Mommie Dearest" is a portrait of vanity and self-obsession. Dig deeper, and it reflects society’s discomfort with mothers and single women.
Winifred Bonfils

The “Sob Sisters” Who Dared to Cover the Trial of the Century

The term “sob sisters” was used in the early twentieth century to make fun of women journalists who dared cover the first trial of the century.
USPS Forever stamps featuring illustrations from Ezra Jack Keats' book "Snowy Day"

The Man Whose Snowy Day Helped Diversify Children’s Books

Jack Ezra Keats's 1962 book The Snowy Day featured an African-American protagonist, a first for a full-color children’s book.
kitchen of the future baby boomers

Did Better Household Technology Create the Baby Boomers?

The Baby Boomers have been blamed for everything from economic stagnation to America's current political situation. But where did they come from?